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Tiki : The First Man


At a glance

Origin Polynesian Mythology
Classification Mortals
Family Members Marikoriko (Wife), Hine-kau-ataata (Daughter)
Region New Zealand
Associated With First Man, Population, Protection



In the mythology of some people, such as the Maori, it’s believed that the god Tumatauenga created the first man on Earth, who was named Tiki. He met a beautiful woman in a lake and they eventually married.

The more commonly known structures called Tikis are generally carved out of stone or wood, and they come in the form of a humanoid figure. In most cultures, these carvings are used to mark sacred sites.

Physical Traits

The actual physicality of Tiki is not known but he is said to have created all human beings in his own image.


In some cultures, such as the West Coast, Tiki is the creator of humans, mixing his own blood with clay and is considered to be the son of Rangi and Papa. The god Tane then makes the first woman who then marries Tiki. In other stories, Tiki marries the first woman Marikoriko and has a daughter named Hine-kau-ataata.

One of the stories about Tiki shows that he was lonely and always looking for company. One day, he saw his reflection in a pool and thought he had found a companion, but he was disappointed. He then covered the pool with earth and it gave birth to a woman. The woman was one day aroused by an eel which then passed onto Tiki and the first reproductive act was consummated.

Other Names

Although Tiki is credited as being the first man, various stories also talk about him being given new names based on his role in creating the other inhabitants on earth. They include Tiki-tohua, the progenitor of birds, Tiki-kapakapa, the progenitor of fish and of the Tui bird, Tiki-auaha, the progenitor of humanity, Tiki-whakaeaea, the progenitor of the sweet potato.

Powers and Abilities

Tiki was not only the first man, he was also actively involved in the creation of the universe with ultimate powers. He is also considered to be a guardian of sorts and offerings are made by the worshippers for all aspects of their life including protection of the souls of the dead.

Modern Day Influence

Tiki is a common figure in modern Maori pop culture where the symbol of the wooden Tiki has become synonymous with the native tribes of New Zealand. Representation in art, television and all forms of entertainment usually tends to cover references to all Polynesian mythologies.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does a tiki mean in Māori?

Maori myths differ on the first man. Some say Tiki, crafted by Tāne or Tūmatauenga, was the first, while others credit the gods with creating the first woman instead.

What does a tiki symbolize?

Tiki symbolizes the first human or a creator god, embodying spiritual power and acting as a guardian to bring protection and good luck.

Is tiki from New Zealand?

Yes, while the word “tiki” has broader Polynesian roots, the specific hei-tiki pendant and its cultural significance originated with the Māori people of New Zealand.

What is the myth of tiki?

Maori myth tells of Tiki, the first human crafted by a god. In some stories, Tiki fathers humanity, while other Polynesian islands link him to the spirit world.

Is tiki a god?

Tiki isn’t a god itself, but bridges the gap. It can represent the first human or be a carved image of a god, acting as a link to the divine and the spirit world.


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